At 11 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, students file into Ines Gimenez’s class for Spanish I. She begins class on time and all the seats seem to be filled – except for one. She scans over the attendance list and then begins to explain that they will be reviewing for the exam. She hands everyone a packet and begins to speak half in Spanish and half in English, usually reverting to Spanish for the directions and then explaining the questions in English. She goes over any questions the students might have and explains when the exam will be.
That one seat, however, still remains empty.
As 11:10 rolls around, professor Sanjukta Ghosh suddenly, but quietly, comes into the room in a hurry. Earlier in the semester, students would probably have thought she was there to relay a message to her colleague, serve as a guest speaker or drop off some papers. But she’s not in the Spanish Department and actually knows very little Spanish – which is why she’s there.
She glances at the clock and sits down in that empty seat in the middle of the room. Contrasted by the small sea of college students around her, Ghosh does not seem like the typical student, but appears to be comfortable despite that fact.
Gimenez hands the student in front of Ghosh a final exam packet and that student hands it back to Ghosh. Ghosh immediately starts reading over it and begins participating – even though she is late on final exam review day.
Ghosh is unique in this class because she is a professor of communication here at Castleton State College. She commonly teaches international film, popular culture and women’s studies. As of right now, she is taking Spanish I with Gimenez simply to learn another language.
“I like the class. I like learning the language,” she says, smiling enthusiastically. “It is just very hard for me because I am not used to it.”
Originally from India, Ghosh learned English as a second language and now is trying to add Spanish to her repertoire in part because she is going with students to El Salvador next semester. But, it comes with some challenges
“I am probably getting a bad grade right now. I got a C- on the last exam! I was tempted to look at other people’s exams.”
Kidding aside, Ghosh is very interactive in the classroom – both with her teacher and with the students around her. Every now and then, she’ll talk to the group of girls sitting around her or joke with another student across the room. She is probably the most talkative of all and always asks many clarifying questions.
As she sits in class, she concentrates on the exam packet and then raises her hand. Gimenez calls on her.
“How long is the test? It’s going to take me a long time,” Ghosh said.
A few minutes later, she asks another question.
“Are all the directions going to be in Spanish?”
When Giminez answers yes, Ghosh says jokingly, “She wants to make our lives miserable.”
But Giminez then said there will be extra credit and Ghosh’s face lit up, knowing that there is hope on the horizon for her next exam. Students laugh with her as she shares their same anxiety about the final exam. Her fellow classmates seem to like her, partly because she is going through the same thing they are and partly because she adds a bit of comic relief to the class.
“She gives us a laugh,” David Deghetto said.
“Yeah, she’s our source of entertainment. Prone to be made fun of, but she’s great,” Andrew Shea agrees. “Her pronunciation is good, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what she’s saying.”
Going to class is not Ghosh’s only commitment though, as Giminez points out.
“She shows up late every now and then, not because she doesn’t want to go, but because she is busy with other things. She teaches other classes, she has to grade papers, and other things. Plus, it’s harder for her because this will be her third time learning a language.”
Ghosh, interestingly enough, actually shares some aspects with Giminez that could benefit her in the class.
“Her culture and mine have much more in common than American culture,” she said.